On November 25, RFE/RL Belarus Service journalist Andrey Kuznechyk was detained by four unidentified men outside of his Mink apartment. The men proceeded to search Kuznechyk’s apartment while he, his wife and two children watched. The men took money, Kuznechyk’s mobile phone and electronics from the house.
Kuznechyk was then led away by the group of four, who did not give any reason for his detention.
“Andrey was ordered to get dressed and to go with them. He was not allowed to take anything with him, only a spare pair of pants. They said that they were taking him away for a short while, for a couple of days,” Kuznechyk’s wife Alesya Rak said.
Kuznechyk’s detention was met with strong condemnation by RFE/RL President Jamie Fly. “The regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues its effort to crush all independent media in Belarus. Andrey was kidnapped by agents of the regime for nothing more than being a journalist. The regime also targeted one of our social media accounts, attempting to cut off more channels of information for the Belarusian people. Andrey should be released immediately and allowed to return to his wife and young children. He has committed no crime.”
On December 6, when his sentence ended, he was not released and handed another 10-day jail term, also on a hooliganism charge. Kuznechyk continued to maintain his innocence.
On December 23, Andrei’s relatives were told that a criminal case had been opened against him, but did not name the article of the Criminal Code. The charges against Kuznechyk remained unknown until late May 2022, when it was revealed that he had been charged with creating or participating in an extremist organization.
On June 8, 2022, Belarusian authorities sentenced Kuznechyk to six years in a maximum-security prison. On September 9, 2022, Kuzneckyk’s name was added to Belarus’ list of persons involved in extremist activity. Kuznechyk is serving his sentence at the Navapolatsky hard labor colony. Since the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, Alyksandr Lukashenka’s government has intensified its crackdown on journalists. RFE/RL has been under severe pressure in Belarus, with the government blocking the network’s website since August 2020 as well as the Russian-language Current Time website. RFE/RL’s Minsky bureau was raided and sealed by Belarus security officers on July 16, 2021.
Other journalists have been targeted as well. RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik has been detained since June 25, 2020, under false accusations of “disrupting public order.”
In October of 2020, Belarusian authorities annulled accreditations for all locally-based journalists working for foreign media outlets, including RFE/RL.